Conducting Meaningful Meetings

We've all sat through a meeting that either dragged on or didn’t seem to accomplish anything.

One could say there’s an art to conducting meaningful meetings, and it is a skill that takes time, experience, and knowledge to develop fully. 

However, no matter how many meetings you’ve chaired or attended, there are a few things you can keep in mind to make them have the most impact. 

1. Decide whether you need to hold a meeting in the first place 

When people are working on projects and something needs to be discussed or decided, sometimes the first thing a project manager will do is schedule a meeting.

However, many discussions do not need to take place in a meeting.

For example, do you just need to receive or disseminate information? Then perhaps it would be better to write an email with the requested information in numbered points. Or if you just need to ask a couple of people for advice or input, you could pop down the hall, pick up the phone, send an email asking for a phone call, or even send an instant message.

Setting up meetings takes time, not to mention the lost productivity in the meeting itselfand even though some people like to hold frequent meetings to promote transparency and collaboration, these meetings can turn into nap time or email-checking sessions if they don’t have a clear purpose and raison d’être  

2Only have the people present who really need to be there 

If you’ve decided that you do actually need to hold a meeting, you don’t need to invite the entire team.

The  only people who need to be there are those who are required to make a decision or clarify information. 

But this also depends on the purpose of the meeting. A morale-boosting or motivational meeting can have an unlimited number of people, but in meetings where a decision is to be made or an exchange of ideas needs to take place, the best number of people is usually 4 or 5 at the most.

This means that those attending will likely be the managers or team leaders, who can then take the decisions and action items to their teams. 

3. Be selective with your agenda items and the amount of time spent on each one 

You should email an agenda at least a day in advance of the meeting, along with any material that needs to be read before the meeting. Specifying a time for each item can help ensure that too much time isn’t spent on some items and not others. This also helps to avoid discussions that are tangential to the item being discussed.  

4. Don’t take meeting minutes by hand 

Prior the meeting starting, ask someone to take notes at the meeting on their laptop. Be sure they make note of all action items from the meeting, so that these can be easily added to a recap email sent out following the meeting.

It's much easier to organize notes typed as bullet points in Word, than to try to turn hand written notes into meeting minutes, especially if you need to fill in gaps. 

5. End with a plan, and follow up 

Shortly after the meeting, send out a follow up email with clear action items from the meeting, including who's responsible and deadlines. This will avoid confusion and ensure that decisions made in the meeting are clear.